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A look back at George and Barbara Bush's remarkable love story

With a romance that spanned more than seven decades, they were the longest-married couple in presidential history.
Image: George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush
Former President George H.W. Bush embraces former first lady Barbara Bush at a luncheon in Dallas in 2006.AP
/ Source: TODAY

Few love stories will make history like the one belonging to George and Barbara Bush.

With a romance that spanned more than seven decades, they were the longest-married couple in presidential history. The 41st president and former first lady both passed away this year — George on Friday at age 91 and Barbara in April at age 92 — 77 years after the two met at a school dance in 1941.

George Bush is shown with wife Barbara in 1945.
George H.W. Bush is shown with wife Barbara in 1945, the year the couple married. AP

"I could hardly breathe, I thought he was so beautiful," Mrs. Bush once told her granddaughter, TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager.

For their first date, the former president borrowed a car to pick up his future wife.

"He told me later, 'I got the Oldsmobile because it had a radio. And I was afraid we'd have nothing to say to each other,'" Mrs. Bush said with a laugh. "And he tells the world now that I've not stopped talking in 75 years."

George Bush, candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, gets returns by phone at his headquarters in Houston, Saturday, June 6, 1964.
George Bush, then a candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, with Barbara in Houston in 1964.AP

She battled a number of health issues during the final years of her life, specifically congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or C.O.P.D.

"I think the fact that they’re together and that he still says, ‘I love you, Barbie’ every night is pretty remarkable,” TODAY correspondent Jenna Bush Hager said Monday after it was announced that Mrs. Bush would no longer be seeking medical treatment to prolong her life.

The world was transfixed by the love letters the couple sent each other, which they once shared on TODAY.

"I love you, precious, with all my heart, and to know that you love me means my life," former President Bush said, reading from one of the letters he wrote to his love.

They sent the letters early in their relationship, when the former president was overseas with the Navy during World War II.

The couple got married in 1945 in Rye, New York, and later moved to Texas. They had six children, including a daughter who died at age 3 of leukemia. Their journey also took them to the White House, where Bush served as the country's 41st president between 1989 and 1993.

George and Barbara Bush cut their wedding cake, Rye, New York.
George and Barbara Bush got married in 1945 in Rye, New York. George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Throughout the decades, their love remained strong. As recently as this month, the former first lady gushed about her husband in her alma mater's alumnae magazine.

"I am still old and still in love with the man I married 72 years ago," she wrote in an update about her life.

"George Bush has given me the world," she also said. "He is the best — thoughtful and loving."

And the pair was never afraid of a little PDA.

Last year, former President Bush wished his wife "the happiest of birthdays" on Twitter, writing, "I am still the luckiest guy in the world."

Known for their playful relationship — the former first lady once called her husband "the best dishwasher in the state of Texas" after he lost re-election — it appears humor may have been the secret to the Bushes' lasting love.

"One of the reasons I made the most important decision of my life to marry George Bush is because he made me laugh," she said at a speech at Wellesley College in 1990. "It's true, sometimes we've laughed through our tears, but that shared laughter has been one of our strongest bonds. Find the joy in life, because as Ferris Bueller said on his day off, 'Life moves pretty fast. Ya don't stop and look around once in a while, ya gonna miss it!'"